A Surprise Storm is Coming!

Hey all,

It’s monsoon season in Tucson, and while it hasn’t been a very active one, I decided there was no better time to tell the story of my favorite Storm, with a capital S.

If you’ve read ROSES by now, maybe you can see how it works as a sort of rabbit hole for the ORDER OF THE BELL series. And the funny thing is, I found a million other branches I wanted to follow in ROSES itself, and the Florindale universe just keeps getting bigger. So last year for NaNoWriMo, I decided to follow one of those branches, and that’s how I wrote NIRAYA STORM AND THE CRYSTAL COMPASS.

Finishing the story was one thing–deciding what to do with it was another. I wrestled with ideas for a long time, but ultimately, I’ve made the decision that instead of releasing this on Kindle or paperback right now, it’s going to have its first home on Wattpad this week.

Niraya as a character is not one for extravagant bells and whistles. She’s a little more raw. If she could produce her own book, she’d probably write it in a simple leather book and hand it over with nothing on the cover. She deserves more than that, but to go through the level of production that I used for ROSES and THE CARVER wouldn’t feel quite right. Plus, in full transparency, it gets expensive. It may be a very long time before I’m ready to start conversations with the editor, formatter, and cover artists I want to work with again, especially because I want to continue going to cons and seeing you all at festivals!

I really love this story. I didn’t want to make Niraya wait until I could afford a fancy production. By then, I may have another story or two that I can’t wait to share with you all, and that’ll be another year or two that the story will have to sit unread. And ultimately, my dream has never been to make money off these stories–only to share them with you and hope they provide some sort of escape and entertainment when you need it. If it gains some demand on Wattpad for a tangible paperback, I may take it further, but in the meantime, I simply want to make it available to you as it is.

It’s raw. It’s not perfect. It may even be a little wild. But that’s always been Niraya Storm to her core, even when she was having her first adventure on the high seas…

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When you’re ready, you’ll be able to start the story HERE this week! If you love it, leave comments on it. Niraya will want to know she was able to hold your attention. 🙂

Scorpions and Dragon Scales

Hello world!

It hasn’t been long since I last put out some updates, but I feel like a world of things have happened since my last post. First, I am mildly disappointed that I woke up today and did not look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who played The Scorpion King in the Mummy movies. This would have been a fair and valid trade for being stung by this big guy in my bed last Monday evening:

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I’m sorry that you have to look at him–or her, I shouldn’t assume its pronouns–but I need you all to know that the desert is a crazy place, and that I may start sleeping in a hazmat suit. (This is also why Diego Rosas always checks his boots and bed sheets in ROSES. I could learn a thing or two from my characters sometimes.)

While my thumb buzzed, burned, and tingled, I had SO MUCH FUN meeting so many of you at Phoenix Fan Fusion this past weekend! It’s been one of the favorite events I’ve ever done, and that’s largely because of the people who go… people like these phenomenal cosplayers. Seriously, Benedict Cumberbatch, is this you?:

Did these people spend any amount of time trying to find Jeff Goldblum while he was on site?

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Which Awesome Mix Volume is this Starlord listening to?

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And this time I got a lot more into the cosplay myself. Any guesses who I was supposed to be on Saturday? 🙂

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It was also fun to see Chris Sarandon and George Takei, as well as to connect with James A. Owen, the author/illustrator of several epic dragon-y sort of books.

And then there are my goofy friends, who make the whole event so memorable!

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But it wouldn’t be half as fun without the readers who come support us, so thank you to everyone who made this happen:

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I have two more events coming up, so whether you’re in Tucson or Phoenix, you’ll have another chance to grab a copy of ROSES or CARVER and get it signed:

  • Arizona StoryFest – Mesa Convention Center on Saturday, June 1, 10am-4pm
  • Grand Central Toy Show – Tucson Mall on Saturday/Sunday June 8/9, 10am-9pm (5pm on Sunday).

Hope to see you all there! Happy reading,

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The Master List

Hey friends,

Happy Sunday! I hope this weekend and the month of May have been excellent to you. As for me, I’m hard at work preparing for summer events! First up is Phoenix Fan Fusion (what I will always refer to as Phoenix Comic Con) from May 23-26th in the Phoenix Convention Center. The League of Fantasy Authors (which includes some of my bestest author buddies Jenna Elizabeth Johnson and Katie Salidas) will be returning to booth #696 to sell books and merch, and new this year, we’re hosting a fun game of Cosplay Bingo!

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All you need to play is the card we’ll give you, something you can use to take pictures, and a good eye to spot those Disney villains, Game of Thrones characters, and favorite Avengers. Score a blackout and win a prize!

You can also find me at Arizona StoryFest in Mesa on June 1st, where I’ll be doing a live reading of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN on the author stage. Thanks to KJZZ radio for the invitation!

After Mesa, I’ll be taking a short break from events to focus on my non-authorly job for the summer, but I won’t be idle! NIRAYA STORM is in beta, and truthfully, I’m waiting for some ideas to slow-cook right now, so I’m using my pockets of free time to soak up some craft knowledge. Currently a book called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff is keeping me busy, and I invite you to work through it with me!

Sokoloff encourages writers to build a “Master List” of at least ten books/movies that influence our work, and then there are exercises that involve rewatching/rereading and analyzing the bones of these story. I love a good excuse to watch my favorite movies again and call it work! I may even share some of my findings and Master List with you all on this website somewhere. For example, one really cool trick I’ve learned is to pay greater attention to what happens at the 15 and 30 minute marks when we watch movies, which should be turning points that can teach us a lot about plot and pace.

Just looking at two of the movies on my Master List:

  • Stardust (2007)
    • 15 minute mark: The King of Stormhold throws a necklace into the sky and declares that the first of his sons to recover it will be his successor to the throne. The necklace knocks a star out of the sky. In another part of the world, Tristan Thorne watches the star fall and makes a promise to go find it in exchange for Victoria Forester’s hand in marriage. (I love this whole scene so much that I keep coming back to it in the Neil Gaiman book for other craft exercises.)
    • 30 minute mark: Tristan Thorne crosses the Wall and finds the star. Surprise! The star is a woman, which definitely complicates his plans to bring it back to Victoria.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
    • 15 minute mark: After a few minutes at each other’s throats, the four teenagers in detention get sucked into a video game and become their adult avatars.
    • 30 minute mark: an NPC explains that the group needs to return the jewel they’re holding to the top of the mountain, but there’s a bad guy after it too… oh, and his gang is right behind you. 🙂

If you’re a writer, I’m curious what stories you’d put on your Master List, or even on mine! Most of mine tend to be family-friendly adventures with fantasy elements, ever-shifting settings and an emphasis on travel/multiple worlds, and ensemble casts. If only there was enough time to read and watch them all… 🙂

Happy reading!

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The Dragon Tamer’s Tale (Excerpt #1 from ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN)

Hey all,

Happy Saturday! Every day is a little closer to the release of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN, and I’m so excited by the little gems of feedback that are popping up here and there on social media. One reviewer wrote to me that it inspired her to go watch the La Llorona movie that just came out . . . oh man. First, let me promise you all that ROSES is not a horror story meant to give you nightmares. La Llorona is. Whenever you get to the book, you’ll understand exactly why this reviewer wanted to go watch the movie! (Full disclosure: I don’t know this person, but I’m confident she must be braver than me. I don’t have the heart to watch La Llorona in theaters…)

Oh, how the crazy crying ghost story used to scare the pants off me as a kid. Especially when it was storming outside, and the wind was strong enough to pull open the screen door when I was at my grandmother’s house…

But if you’re up for a story within a story, I have the first excerpt for you from ROSES today. If you’ve read The Carver, you just might recognize the storyteller. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You’ll learn all about the man before you’re done reading…

     The dwarf paced back and forth, tugging his beard in alternating motions like cow udders. While he got over his fit, I checked out his home. This guy seemed like the least likely person to put wanted posters around the city for a dragon’s death. Reptilian figurines lined his shelves, golden eggs the size of my head sat in silver bowls, and paintings of winged beasts clung to every inch of the wall. And yet, here stood a man who was blubbering like he had a phobia. When he finally stopped pacing, he poured three goblets of wine without asking. I wondered if it was juice at first, but the smell stung my nostrils, and I vowed not to touch it.

     Zid gulped his wine, wiped his lips, and then slammed his goblet down in front of him. “I’ll have you know that I used to be a dragon trainer. I’ve bred and raised a few. I fed them and exercised them and advocated for their rights. See that one on the wall right there?” He pointed to a painting of a dragon that oddly seemed to be smiling. “My Draco. I loved him dearly, so much that I had to move him into Grimm’s Hollow with a friend. He was too big and too free for my little yard.”

     A tear sparkled like a marble in Zid’s eye.

     Karina offered a smile. “I can imagine you’re very passionate about dragons.”

     “Was,” Zid said. “Until Verdoro.”

     I gripped the sides of my chair, ready for some kind of story. We needed a thunderclap and a theater spotlight to properly set the mood.

     Zid cleared his throat dramatically, rising on his toes to make himself look taller. “Verdoro first plagued Florindale Square some time ago. You can imagine my excitement when I first saw those scales. He was a dream. Most people ran in fear, but I wanted to talk to him. They can understand us, you know. They know our tones, our intentions, and our body language. But when he burned down Midas’s Pub without provocation, I knew there was something . . . off about him. Dragons do not descend on civilization to burn or consume unprovoked. They’re actually quite gentle. Leave them be—respect them—and they shall never hurt a soul.”

     Based on that statement alone, I knew Zid would’ve become fast friends with Tio. Coffee shop buddies. I tried to picture them broing out, and I almost laughed. The trouble was I didn’t agree with Zid’s statement at all, and Karina clearly didn’t either.

     “My uncle did nothing to the dragon,” she said. “It came out of nowhere and took him away with no good reason.”

     “That’s because this one’s different,” Zid said. “As if Hades itself spat him out. He cannot be reasoned with or tamed. Believe me, I was the only one foolish enough to keep trying. I considered that he might be a shifter—a human who’s dabbled in dark arts to assume another form at will.”

     Karina and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. Real life shifters? Like Dracula and his bat form? Or the blue lady from the X-Men comics? Neither of them was very nice.

     Zid must’ve sensed my discomfort because he waved a hand and said, “But I have doubts. Humans have different auras that don’t go away when they turn. You can sense it. Go figure, we finally settle into a period of peace, free of curses and evil queens, and now we have Verdoro returning at random intervals to terrorize Florindale. Sometimes he engulfs buildings. The Woodlands are dying. Sometimes he batters a living being and leaves them there to suffer, as if he enjoys the sport of torturing people.”

     My stomach churned. What was the monster doing to my tio?

     “I should say there are few who have ventured out to hunt him. None have returned, and not a soul wishes to attempt the journey anymore, even with the rather generous reward on Verdoro’s head. It feels as though we are destined to settle into our fear, to keep one eye fixed on the clouds until the monster finally plummets from them. Unfortunately, the life of such a beast spans ages we do not care to wait for.”

     Rina and I grew up with some messed up legends. Mom liked to scare us with La Llorona, the crying ghost woman that took bad kids away. But never an actual dragon.

     Karina put on that famous Rosas concentration stare, like she was taking an X-ray of Zid. “What do you think is the lifespan of somebody who’s been taken by the dragon?”

     Zid frowned, deep lines appearing on his forehead. “I’m sorry, younglings.” He refilled his goblet and then drained it again. “Nobody’s ever come back.”

Zid

There’s still time to download an ARC of ROSES if you’re interested in getting it for free! Most of them have been claimed already, but there are about 8 left last I checked. As for the eBook, it’s on preorder for $2.99 where digital books are sold! Try Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple . . . they’re everywhere, and they’ll hit your ereader on April 30th!

Cover Reveal! Roses in the Dragon’s Den

Hi Friends!

Happy Friday to you all! So, this post really can’t be about the words today. What I’m about to reveal can only be shown to you, and that’s the cover for ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN! *trips* *drops cover*

Roses in the Dragon's Den final front cover for preview

I’m just . . . I’m absolutely . . . I can’t describe it. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be. Special thank you to the designer, Amalia Chitulescu, one of the most incredibly talented artists I know. It was important to me that this cover show off a pair of young, strong, determined LATINX heroes, and I think that Amalia just did that beautifully. Look at Rina and Charlie squaring off against that beast up there! And, they look incredibly close to how the characters were imagined for the trading card set:

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The preorders for this book will be live soon, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in an ARC opportunity to read this before it even hits release day, you can sign up here! I believe this is a book for you if:

  • You’ve ever wanted to see new places
  • You enjoy character-driven stories with family themes and a spirit of adventure
  • You like Oreos (and who doesn’t?)
  • You secretly wish you could sail with pirates
  • You’re a fan of Percy Jackson or other stories told in goofy first-person POVs
  • You want more Latinx heroes in your books
  • You’re fascinated by dragons (and who isn’t?)
  • You’ve watched Man Vs. Wild and wondered what Bear would do if he encountered a dragon. (Okay. Maybe that’s only me?)

Lastly, I ask that if you like this cover, share the preorder widely and add it on Goodreads. I have big dreams for this story… but it’s gonna take a team effort to make sure people know about it! What do you say? Are you with me?

Happy weekend!

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A Place Off the Beaten Path

Hey Friends!

I hope 2019 has been everything you hoped it would be and more so far. On my end, life’s been a little chaotic, but in a great way. It’s all chaos that I asked and prepared for, so I’m rolling with it! On the surface of it all, I recently traveled to Chicago and got an incredible fill of the famous Bean, deep dish style pizza, time with a great friend, and I discovered a random place to have amazing strawberry-lemon pancakes for lunch. I think that will be my mission every time I travel from now on… not necessarily the pancakes, but to find at least one great place off the beaten path that people don’t tell me to go to. Then I can tell YOU about it, and if you ever end up at Eggy’s Diner in Illinois, think of me. 🙂

As fate would have it, ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN is a bit of a love letter to people who have ever wanted to venture off the beaten path before. Speaking of which, I’m MOVING! Last night I let one of my new roommates peek at my upcoming book. I really hope he keeps the juicy spoilers to himself… I think I can trust him.

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But until then, I can show you that ROSES is just about done with interior formatting now, and Melissa Stevens worked some real magic! Get a look at the chapter header for the first page of the book:

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The only thing left is to do is put a killer cover on all this, and I believe that will happen next week so . . . YEET! (Did I use this word correctly? It felt natural…)

By the way, everyone who is reading from Tucson should come see me at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday! I’ll be in the YA Indie Pavilion from 2:30-4:30, and I’ll have ROSES trading cards ready to give away! If you want a set, purchase any book at my table, or if you already have ’em all, just come up to me and whisper the pass phrase: LADY FORTUNE.

Until then, happy reading!

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2019: One-Word Theme

Happy New Year! Because we can still say this for another week or so, right? For about as long as it takes us to stop writing “2018” on our checks and homework assignments and stuff…

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know I had tremendous optimism for 2018, but didn’t enjoy the year that much at all. Great things did happen and I will forever be grateful for the good that occurred. But looking back at 2018 is like looking at a mean lunch lady who chucks your pizza at you from across the cafeteria. Yes, she’s giving you food, and yes, it is PIZZA for goodness sake and you love it, but she’s being incredibly uncool about it and you have to get up and face her wrath every day, and it probably costs money. In fact, she probably beat you up and took it from you, then threw the pizza at you and screamed at you to “SAY THANK YOU!”

Despite all this, I still rang in 2019 with tremendous optimism, and I hope you’ll let me share some of that with you for your year to come. I spent a few hours downtown last night and watched a jazz band called the Hot Sardines play at the Fox Theater. It was so great to soak in the infectious energy, not only from the band but the people who dressed in their best “roarin’ 20’s” attire last night, like they were ready to go “roarin'” into 2019 and insist on enjoying the next trip around the sun. I also love that social media crackles with positive energy around January 1 each year, but there are always a few downers who insist that “No, the new year will NOT be any better, because time isn’t real and humans invented it.” Fair point, smarties, but isn’t it also true that we can all be a little better? We can go into the lunch room with catching mitts, for example, or bring our own pizza. 🙂 We don’t have to go in with difficult resolutions. I actually didn’t make any resolutions at all. Every year, I simply pick a word of focus, and use that as a “theme” for how I will approach challenges.

There’s one moment in particular that I want to take with me from 2018:

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This photo represents a time when I seized an opportunity and went ALL in on something new, even when all possible outcomes scared me. It was a short adventure that could have changed my life in a number of ways, but in the end what it really changed was my perspective and what I believed about myself. It was a time I knew my future was in my hands alone, and that I had the full support of people who cared. It was a time when I felt bold.

Bold (adj): showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

This is my word of the year! I know what it means for me and how I can practice it in writing and life, but it may mean something different to you, or you may have an entirely unique idea of what you want out of 2019. I’m here to encourage you to grasp onto that theme and not to be afraid of it, whatever it is. If there are a couple of days where you notice it slipping from you, it doesn’t mean 2019 is a bust. It means “let’s stand back up and try this again. Let’s be stronger, wiser, and face the year with an open heart.”

Wishing you all the best in the year to come!

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Of Wind and Thunder

Dear Friends,

The days are long, but the years are short! What can I say about 2018? It’s been a year of growth and excitement, from releasing THE HUMMINGBIRD to rebranding a series, not to mention the wonderful festivals and cons I got to take part in from Tucson to Kentucky!

The whole time, something else was in the works, and as I look ahead to 2019, this is honestly what I’m most excited about.

I want to confess that ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN was the first time I wrote a book and had a “wind and thunder” moment. Did you ever see The Man Who Invented Christmas? Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens in the time when he was struggling to write A Christmas Carol. In one of the coolest parts of the movie, he sits there spewing nonsense syllables and trying to come up with a name for his main character.

Just when he’s about to give up, his eyes light up and he breathes, “Scrooge.”

And it’s an event. Wind and thunder. The curtains flutter, the door bangs open, and there’s Mr. Scrooge, ready to engage. But it’s not until Dickens can actually name him that Scrooge takes on a life of his own and plants roots in Dickens’s mind. It’s a movie moment that gives me chills, and that was exactly what happened when I created the Rosas family: Charlie, Karina, and Uncle Diego. Finally landing on the right title was another event. The story started to sing. It took me a long time to settle on one, and the characters, voice, and even the POV changed many times over the past 2.5 years.

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But once I discovered the Rosas family, they were everywhere. Diego would speak to me from the passenger seat of a rental car when I would drive through the mountains of Dragoon. “Get a look at that! Let me tell you about some of the places I’ve been.”

I would imagine Charlie running through soccer fields and Karina sitting pretzel-style in the middle of the YA aisles at the bookstore, chin in her hands and completely lost in a book she hadn’t even taken to the register yet. And I had to tell the story of what happened when their daily routines were interrupted by something so much bigger than them.

And where did the inspiration come from? The flu. I was sick in bed watching Man Vs. Wild, and at one point I said, “I want to see a situation where Bear DOESN’T know what to do. Like what would happen if a freaking dragon showed up on camera right now?” I still don’t really know the answer to that, but I DO know what Diego Rosas would do, and that’s what I get to share with you this coming spring.

So are you ready for a preview? The manuscript is in final proofreading stages, so it’s coming to you very soon! Be sure to sign up for my official newsletter (which actually isn’t what you’re reading right now 🙂 this is only my blog! Sign up here!) as the first three chapters will be exclusive to subscribers until release day.

If you’re a creative type, I hope 2019 is filled with imaginative wind and thunder for you. And to all of you, I wish you love and inspiration, good health, and plenty of Oreos to go around.

Merry Christmas!

 

NaNoWhatMo?

It’s official! NaNoWriMo starts in less than a week, which means it’s time to find your favorite writers and give them hugs or send them snacks and inspiration. Throughout the month of November, many of us are going to be bleeding out our fingertips to write the stories of our hearts. It’s National Novel Writing Month, and tens of thousands of writers across the country will be participating.

I’ve had this exact conversation with more individuals than I can remember now:

Person: “Wow, you write books? How cool! I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I have time, I will.”

Me: “Oh, hey, you should think about signing up for NaNoWriMo this year.”

Person: “NaNoWhatMo?”

Me: “NaNoWriMo! It’s a yearly event and a non-profit organization that encourages you to write a novel in a month, or at least make progress and establish a habit.”

Person: ” . . . oh. Yeah, no. I could never write a novel in a month. That’s crazy!”

A: Yes, perhaps a little. All writing is a little crazy. We sit at a keyboard or a pad of paper and manipulate 26 letters in infinite combinations with the goal of creating vivid shared hallucinations. It’s fantastic.

B: NOBODY inherently has time to write a novel. Many of the writers who have done so did not have any more time than you do. Time is a finite economy and we all make do with the little pockets we can scrounge. More on this in a blog post I made last year. The Sparknotes version: If you are waiting for that magic moment to open up when the stars will align and you’ll have ALL the inspiration and ALL the time, you will never write your novel. *puts down the megaphone and steps off soapbox*

C: Truth, homie! Writing a novel is difficult. Writing a novel in a month is SUPA HARD. It can be done, but I certainly have never done it before. In fact, I’ve never even hit the 50,000 word goal that we’re “supposed” to hit during NaNoWriMo. That’s why I use the month to taken in all the creative juices I can and attempt to make significant progress on some sort of project. I pull up my playlists, print out photos of my “fan castings” or settings, light candles that smell like Florindale Square or the ocean or the leather goods someone might find in my world, and I simply add as many words as I can. My record is probably somewhere over 30,000. Fifty K? I can only dream for now.

But, whether I know I can write 50,000 words or 500 words in a month, I could never pass up the opportunity to move 500 words closer to typing “THE END.” After all, I find the revision process a whole lot more fun than the first draft process, and every year I can’t wait to print out that beautifully-spiral-bound-but-terribly-written first draft so I can begin to splatter the pages with red ink and make them sing. (Oh, and nothing I’ve written in November has ever been publishable until at least June or July!)

So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into the writing waters “when you have the time”, why not get started this November and see if you can write half a novel? A few chapters? An outline? Even if you finish with a basic description of a main character and a random sentence that belongs somewhere in the middle, that’s something you didn’t have in October.

I’m here to tell you: You have a book inside of you, you can bring it out, and it is valuable.

You’ve got this!

Cheers,

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The Hummingbird v. 2.0: Cover Reveal #3!

Hey friends!

I’ll cut right to the fun stuff: You’ve already seen the first two covers for the new and improved Carver Trilogy, and all week long I’ve been itching to release the third and final cover! I’m just going to drop it right here for ya:

Here we have a glimpse of Neverland, pirate ships, a dragon, some of the towers from Avoria’s Citadel, and perhaps my favorite element of this cover: We finally have a look at Enzo himself!

The books themselves are in formatting, and once that step is complete, I’ll be working to hard to get these live and ready for your hands. I have a feeling they’re going to look pretty awesome in person, especially when you put them all together!

This week to celebrate the release of all three covers, I’m giving away a $5 Amazon credit to one random winner. Entry is simple:

  1. Follow my Facebook page.
  2. Add ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN, my upcoming February release, to your Goodreads list.
  3. Comment on this blog post and tell me what your favorite fairy tale retelling is, or any fairy tale/myth that you would like to see retold in the future! Or, just tell me what you think of these covers!!

I will choose a winner in a week!

Happy reading!

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